弓道 – A bit of Kyudo


A touch of Kyudo
Ok so shoot me this is not about working blue collar! coming soon… Meanwhile.
It is/was Tues, traditionally Kimono day at the Kyudojo. There was part of me that did no feel like going. Partly tire from the heat and working the day before, partly being lazy, there is some travel envolved, anyway, I knew that when one is feeling like that the best thing to do is just just do it. One usually gets an extra benefit, the universe seems to work that way. Maybe a balancing thing to the extra effort to get there, or do that thing. The universe, balance is it’s thing. 
 
Yeah , so off I go to Kyudo. Having a practice means discipline if one wants to advance. I want my name moved up in the member board at the dojo. We were speaking about the board and placement today. At least some of us were, I mostly listened and tried to figure out what was going on until I had enough, lost interest and did some shooting. 
Sorry jumped ahead
 
Ummm yeah , I went to Kyudo and met one of my buds a the front desk. She told me some things about the class today , most of which I not understand but the gist of it was there was no formal class today, because of several reasons, all of which meant to me no class…just practice. Because some of the things she said I did not get I kept my eyes and ears open , prepared to roll with whatever. I went upstairs to the dojo with her, passing some Senseis that I thought she, my bu said were not going to be there or busy. Ok , roll with it mode engaged. 
 
I entered the ojo and did my greetings and started to get ready to shoot. As I was doing so I heard talk of class today. People counted, some more talk, and then we all decked it was going to be Dogi wear and solo practice. Ok cool, with me. I wanted some time to just shoot.
 
We all had at it. We chatted, practiced and chatted. At one of these chats was the ranking name board discussion. It is interesting, I get very little of what is being said, but enough so I can follow some conversations, but everyone speaks to me like I understand and I am part of all that goes on, not the gaijin. I have heard several times over my time here, something about oh, Yeah, I forgot you are not Japanese. Then try to explain what they said. I dislike getting them to stop talking, because they are saying something I do not understand, because it stops the flow of what is happening. Unless I really can not get what they are saying and it is something I have to say beside yes or no. I need to go…eh??? And then comes tying to explain it in Englishanese. The adventure! Interestingly at some point I get it! I find it all most interesting to be where I am and flash-on where I am from. What a long strange trip it’s been.
 
So yeah, while we are chatting the main Sensei comes in. I have not seen him in awhile. I greet him and say long time no see. He says ohhh, you are still practicing, or here or something like that. Another bud of mine says, with a laugh, yes of course he is always here with us. Everyone chuckled, I did not get a few words said, as I was walking away as was Sensei.
 
So we all practiced, chatted, etc. Two of the sensei that uasally run things and that I passed in the hall, came back in after awhile. One, the Kaicho started shootings and helping people. After a while of shooting the head Sensei comes out and watches me shoot. He is not please but not displeased, I get a few corrections. He says he will check me again before I leave afte he finishes what he doing in the back. I say ok thank you, an settle in for more practice. I was not exspecting this, it is good, but surprising. I had tried coming in a few times when I thought he was there , but he was not. He is a detail orientated guy, beside being the head of the Kishiwada chapter of the Renmei. He is the one that signs my papers to go to a Shinsa. So it was good to have him check me. 
 
I practiced, he came back, just before I was ready to leave, after extending my practice time to three hours instead of two. I got a correction, adjustment on my daisan, the final section of my hikiwaki, tenonuchi, right elbow in Kai, yumi placement on my knee and why, the correct fingers to use to knock the ya string. A lot of small things, nothing to help my hitting , but I have learned that yes it does, just not right away, but it will all come together, I just need to listen and make the correction. A Zen master once told me, there are times when things happen, but they show up later. I am certain at some point all will click into place with my shooting, and I will ascend to the next Plateau and I will have my “act” all together. 
 
After Sensei gave me my second check, he said something I understood to mean it takes some time to get corrrect. I replied little by little, he nodded yes.
 
“It matters not how many times you get knocked down, it matters how many times you get up”…Brown Buddha
 
It turned out to be an excellent day, I got to practice, I got some needed corrections on my Kyudo, I got of the house, fresh air and walked. Amitoufo
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Kyudo , rainy day musing


Musings on a rainy day

 
I am off today, due to the rain, nice my back needs some more down time. There was a big earthquake this morning, so not a run of the mill start. My plan was and still is to settle down in my studio with tea and catch up on some writings…
Yesterday I went to Kyudo practice. I had planned on doing some Komuso practice afterwards, but that did not work out. Which I wrote about on the Komuso blog. As for Kyudo, I have been working more t home with the Makiwara to cement things into my “bones” . I had a revelation last week at the Kimono class about my shooting. Actually my stance not my shooting, if I was to knit pick. Posture, jumongi. I was noticing I was not turning fully perpendicular to the mato, with my upper body. I did not have a chance to fully test the thought, but I did have a chance yesterday. 
 
I had originally planned for a two-hour practice, then go out for my Buddhist Komuso practice, but I cut it down to an hour o as not to tart too late. Which tuned out to be pointless. So yeah, I got in some practice , it did make a difference. I got on the first shot, and just missed on the second. 
I still need some adjustment and other work , because I missed a lot after that. I think I slacked off on other points. Because towards the end when I really focus on every detail I improved. The Kaicho gave me a quick check over on his way out , on my last shot. It hit he said I need to keep my head back more and raise my chest. Other wise good. 
 
The week before at Kimono practice. I was corrected on some Tai Hai points. Not lifting heels off the floor when walking backward to Honza from Shai, placing my Yumi on the outside on my knee cap not the inside, leaning the yumi slightly outward when turning out of the Kimono disrobe part. “Hadanugi “. Plus some other small points, nothing to do with shooting but having to do with proper form. So still getting bit by bit instructions. Taking them in, logging, implementing, the process continues. 
 
When starting back to for the summer, I should be able to return to going to the dojo twice a week now, without hearing static from the minister of finance. I am pretty certain I will attend the next Shinsa in September at my home dojo. Feeling ready or not, taking it as part of practice. Like one is supposed to approach doing meditation, the goal is doing it, not the result.

弓道 – Reset to Zero

Back to Zero

 
Sigh, as has been the case time after time I am back to Zero with Kyudo. ok, so maybe not “zero” but it feels like it. I thought I was making some improvement, in the big picture I am. It is said something like one can not cure and illness until the cause is known. I may have at least a clue what my current issues are. 
 
I went into practice the other day, and my new adopted Sensei was there. I say adopted, because the week before when asked who was my sensei by a sempai he spoke up. He does always come and help me when he and I are there together. I like him he is kind. I have always felt like my Sensei is Watase Sensei the lead sensei. Even though I rarely see him, and also Yamashita Sensei, as he was my intro from Nogami Sensei who passed away. I feel closer to Yamashita Sensei, but he is not always there and only comes certain times which are not set. Watase Sensei can be found on a certain day and time…mostly. He is also the one who signs for me to take Shinsa. I suppose it does not matter, so moving on…
 
So I had thought part of my problem, a big part was that I was not understanding everything. Which may still be, some of the case . However I am now leaning toward it is a physical issue. My shoulders are not loose enough. I keep getting told to drop my shoulders. In Daisan do not raise my shoulders, when in ready position move my elbow forward but not my shoulder. Try as I may I can not comply enough. I am trying but not succeeding. ( There is not try , do or do not. I am doing not!!) I watch the Sensei and his shoulders are much looser he has a greater range of motion. I do not know if I need more stretching or it is just a physical body structure issue. I recall when I was young my mother use to tell me a lot, pull your shoulders back! Maybe I was physically unable to do any more than it was. Not deformed, just different. Perhaps if I had worked at it then it would be better now. I am I believe now too old to reshape my bone structure. Pretty certain. I will continue to attempt to succeed but I may have to make compensation somewhere else.
 
Yesterday The Kaicho came over to me whilst I was shooting and I told him my ya always go just to the right of the target. Sometime they go correct, but when it happens it because I am doing something with my right arm they tell me not to do. Which is to pull my elbow back to far. As in to my rear, not to my side out away fm me opposite the target. Kaicho watched me shoot and said my left shoulder is to far forward when in Kai. He had me shoot again and corrected me as I held position and released. It went straight. However I did aim more to the left than I had been. 
 
What I am saying is I read about the aiming point, half-moon , whole moon thing. I pretty much line my ya tip up with the target, not the whole or half-moon thing. When I asked m from the tip, my hit count goes up. However sometimes the ya goes too far to the left of the Target. 
 
Maybe I should stick with the way that gets the most hits and not listen to when the tell me to do something different, however I feel if I do that I am just being a “target who’re” is the term used.
 
Sigh.
 
I head reports from the recent big Shinsa in Tokyo. There are people who shot for Yondan and only hit one, but still passed! Crap! That throws off the theory about testing in Japan is harder. Someone speculated that it was because there was a seminar just before the Shinsa and the judges got to see how the person shot regularly. 
 
Oh well, back to the drawing board, or this case the mato/ Makiwara

弓道 – One step back


One step back…

 
The weather was finally spring like together, great. I went to the flea market at the temple I played at recently. It was the most crowded I have seen. I also the most gaijin I have ever seen at these. I was hoping to see a acquaintance of mine. I a local monk who is usually there begging. I wanted to ask him some advice on where I could play without stepping on some other monk’s toes there. Alas he was not there. Oh well. I went through the markers anyway as I needed a couple of things and wanted to check out for a couple of others. I did not buy much, a couple of beads and a cord to make a cleaning cloth for some shakuhachi, some nuts, and some wooden prayer beads.

Afterward I went to Kyudo. There is all the testing coming up in Kyoto soon, so there were several sensei there, including my favorite, Yamashita sensei. I had planned on just practicing, but of course with the sensei there that went out the window. Still it was good, I got a lesson. It threw all that I thought I was finally getting out the window. Sort of.

 
I got my right arm draw and placement corrected. It totally changed my hitting from ok, to it sucks! However sensei was pleased with the adjustment. I guess that I more important. So when I finally get to Shinsa again I will do well, and the next step will be easier. He also told me O was knocking my ya wrong. Bring the ya to the sting, not the other way around. As fo my draw, I think I finally got it , at least I understand what I am supposed to be doing.
 
I wonder does anyone understand how difficult it is to follow things in a language you do not fully understand. Sensei is good at explaining, and he ok’d what I was doing afterwards, even though I was not hitting. So I have to adjust my sighting again to off set the new positioning of my right arm and shoulder. It is surprising how much of a big difference it makes with a small change how the arrow travels.
 
I will be putting off the upcoming Shinsa in June, until Sept. oh well. Like I have been saying. It really only matters to me. Before Yondan there is practice, after Yondan there is practice.
.

尺八 – Wind blowing in the rain

 

Wind blowing in the rain

 
I need to sort out now what is going here and what is going to the Komuso blog site. I have that blog up and surprisingly a couple of people have started following it. 
 
So back to just regular Shakuhachi before I publish the next segment on the Komuso blog.
 
I went to the monthly meeting of the”Koten-shakuhachi-kenkyuu-kai” (Society for the Study of Classical Shakuhachi) club yesterday. I have been to the “header’s dojo a couple of times already. Still I got seriously lost. I had a map with me a good thing. I stopped and asked for help a couple of times. People were very helpful!! I was way off track. I started out ok, but took my first turn way too early. After almost a restart, I got where somethings looked familiar and following the last set of help directions. I got to a place I knew where I was. Whewww.
I marked the location this time on my Smartphone map. Although I am fairly certain I know how to get there next time I found where I made my mistake.
 
Not a big deal being late there was only three others there when I arrive. Another member came later than me he had a performance to do before hand. 
 
We went through a few pieces.then I was asked to play what I am working on. I receive some helpful corrections on my technique. I need to focus again on doing some drills not just learning a song. Now that I have my goal somewhat done, I can focus on just improving my skill and not worrying about a performance. 
 
Oota sensei , the header had finished a 2.0 Shakuhachi he had been working on for me. I was surprised. I thought it would take a lot longer, as he is busy. However he comes over and says here try this. The sound was warm and deep but not overly deep. I liked it. It is a solid flute not the light feeling kind, and a big curve. This has some weight to it. It was fairly easy to play and nice looking . Cool ! He had me pick a carry bag from two that his wife had made. She does nice work! I was a happy camper. I did not play it much at the time as we were working with the 2.5 flutes. I also wanted to play with it at home where I would not be self conscience about it.
 
Another sensei there played the new flute and gave his approval.
 
The Sempai who gave me the Komuso application came in later. I thanked him for his help and showed him my new card. He said he just got his renewed as well and showed it to me. I told him I did not get a set of rules. He said nor did he this time. I guess we are just not suppose to do anything to embarrass the group.
 
After our practice sessions , Oota sensei, took us to his workshop to see some bamboo in the pre-flute stage. I was surprised how many he had ! Some of a really curved nature. Most of them big, not the smaller 1.8 version. It was quite interesting!
 
After that we closed up shop and headed out in the rain to an izakaya for our after practice social hour. I do not understand all that is aid , but we still all communicate and have fun. This was a different place from before as the old one closed down. To bad, I thought their select n was better. This place had “kompai” special that worked out well. Even for me with my picky eatingness. I had two small bottles of Sake the others had beers! I like these guys , nice folks. It is hard to make friends it is said in Japan, can understand that. I was lucky to be introduced to these guys and feel comfortable with them. Sharing the same musical connection is a good bonding medium. Of course the people themselves make the difference. As with a certain sailor who shares sailing and Zen practice with me, but is a jerk!
All in all I think my musical connections are stronger than my Kyudo connections, for the most part.
 
In the evening when I returned home, a sat an played with my new flute. I really like it. I played some traditional songs and a modern song. I also did some free style. I enjoy this flute. It will be my main multi-purpose flute. I like the low tone and the highs which are not too high. The second register as well I liked not too tinny sounding.
 
Some players I have seen on-line have a huge selection of flute. I will be basically keeping just the ones I have. 1- 2.5, 1- 2.0, 2- 1.8s. That pretty much covers my needs. I do have one more 2.5 , however I am planing on gifting it to a friend who has always been helpful to me, with Kyudo, and Music instruments I have needed. No need to have things I will not use, when it can be use and appreciated by someone else.
 
Oh one last note on the Kyudo Shakuhachi connection. I last time spoke of a Kyudo sensei who was also a shakuhachi player and a Shorinryu sensei. The one who rarely speaks, but has helped me with Kyudo points. I asked him if he was still playing Shakuhachi. He gave me a small half smile and said, he was on “break” from playing right now. He had played for 20 yrs. I asked what style, Tozen he said. Fairly common and popular style in Osaka.
 
I am glad I did not fall in with a Tozen teacher in my quest for a sensei. The Tozen style is a somewhat newer style and their focus is more about western style pieces seems like. Tozen is what my other sempai from Kyudo plays. My style is call Kinko an it goes back a long way and also linked with the Komuso and Zen practice
 
 

…and the beat goes on. April


And the beat goes on…
The path of “music”
Springs forth, a babbling stream
as do buds of the Sakura.

A lot of music stuff has been happening. I think the last thing I wrote besides Shakuhachi music was about the Blues Festival, complex mixup. I was under the wrong impression about being required to buy a shirt. So that is back on the burner as a ToDo.

 

The Sieki Band, 

 
We had a good rehearsal am I am liking the way the band sounds, especially with the harmonic vocals. However they need work. Like most things worthwhile. ( Ch’an lesson for today) The keyboard guy, Lucky Joe, a real character, good for a group, is good, he fills a lot. The guitar is a good rhythm holder. We have a show coming up on April first. It is a small showcase venue, we are in a show with three other bands. I am fairly sure this is a no pay , just showcase kind of thing. Which is ok we are a totally new band. We have a Practice session this coming Sat. A band that has practice sessions before doing a show ! What a concept! Radical.
 

The Jazz Session


There is a monthly Jazz Jam session, nearby my house. I have been before, and posted stuff. Ozaki Jazz Society, I call it. The people are nice, the club manager also lets me know what there is I can eat from the spread that is put out as a free buffet. He knows I do not eat meat. Most of the players are very good. However I do not like just trying to play a Jazz song with no practice if I do not know it well. Most of the regular songs I know are not Jazz. So when I go to this I have to pick songs to do, that are Jazzy. It is kind of hassle. I go maybe once every three months. I went there last week. It was good. We came together and even though our first time together with these members, and me trying to explain what I wanted, always an adventure. We sounded good. If anyone is interested in hearing the 20 min sessions cuts can click HERE?
 

School of Rock,

 
There is a keyboard player who I have played with on several occasions. I like his style and he speaks a little English. Several months ago he asked me to play a show with him in March. It happened just this past weekend. I was to play bass with him on a few songs, then do a few songs on my own, guitar, or piano and/or with him if I wanted on keyboard.
This was our first gathering, with the other members he brought in. We had a percussionist, steel drum, keyboard and bass, with some vocals from whoever.
We got together before the set to practice. It went well, we fit and worked together as a group. Afterward we went next door to the live house and ate at the small local Izakaya. They were a bit surprised with me there, but were friendly. We ate, chatted, joked and bonded. I already knew the percussionist, she had done backup singing for me before. The only new person was the steel drum player. Still we all got along, no attitudes. This is a cool band. It would be interesting to do more with them, there could be some cool stuff development!
 
We went back to do the show. Not many people, which did not surprise me. Toward the end of the night a few people came in. Those that did seemed to enjoy one woman got up danced. The group sets went well. We sounded like we have played together before, have not, at least with this configuration. Click for a sample HERE
When it was my turn, I figured I would do a test run of the plan for my show at the Blues festival. I had prerecorded bass and drum tracks on to a new loop unit, I recently acquired. So Drum and bass recorded, I played keyboard and Harmonica, with my vocal. It went over well as I had hoped. It sounded good and I did not embarrass myself with a big mistake. 
So I am confident I can pull off the Blues festival and also with the right planning and effort I can do a full solo session at some club, or at least half. I am thinking a club where the docs band used to play. “Chicago Rock” is a pretty popular spot. It would be good to play “here even twice a year.
 

Snafkin

 
It has been quiet there since the owner passed away. Just recently I hear tha his wife will now open the cafe only on the weekends. I always like that place. It is where I met several players I became friends with. This Sat there is to be small session, I will attend. I am considering doing my first non traditional Shakuhachi song. I want my friend to play Shamisen with me, but I do think she is comfortable. I will write out here part just in case, otherwise I will prerecorded on the Looper the rum Shamisen and bass parts, and just play the Shakuhachi live.
Then do one other song with whoever is there, which will include my favorite sax player. I am not a big Sax sound fan, but I like her tone and playing. It should be a fun session and nice to see the Snafkin crowd again.
 

Sakai City Blues Festival

 
This is going down the last weekend in April. I am going to need to be there for both days. Day one I will be playing bass for the Matsuo Blues Band.
The next day, I will be doing a solo set, with me on Keyboard and me on digital backup. Having already did the set at the last club The Happy Rabbit, I am feeling comfortable with some more practice it should go smooth.
You can hear a sample HERE

 

Snafkin by the Sea

 
I kind of feel this is my home base club. It had been awhile since going, since the master’s passing. I had through the grapevine, the place was closing with just
The wife left to run it. However I received a notice it was going to be opening only on the weekends. It seems like a few of ladies have gotten together to help the widow run the place. My friend sends me posting on FB about a few things that have happened there, but I have been busy on those same time.
I had made a point of going last night. I was not sure just what the plan was, if it It an open session or there was a group playing or a mix. I had said to Iyo-san I would do a song with her.
 
 
I showed up about 1 hour after the show started. I was surprised at the turnout, but there was a seat for me. I saw there my two Kyudo sempai who first got me to Snafkin. I was pleased and surprised. I kept being asked by several if I was going to play, where was my bass or something? I said I did not know if I was playing or not. Since I did not how things were being handled. I just watched. It was enjoyable. After a while the owner comes over to me. I thought she was collecting entrance money but she was asking me if I wanted to play something, not pay something. There was a time limit on how long they could play until. I said ok, one song with the band. I liked all of the players so did not want to replace them, piano, Bass, guitar, Sax, and that drum box thing. I did not bring anything with me except my Shakuhachi and Harmonicas. I opted to play Harp and sing. I gave them the key to play a simple funky blues, and the bass line to work around. With the Jazz players it took on a nice nature. Too bad I was not recording for that, it was awesome! Always the best stuff when not planning for it.

 

Page One

 
This is a new to me club. The Sieki band was arranged to play there. It was one of those nights when there are several bands, and it is a mix of styles. Not a loose everyone play with whoever jam session, but each group got a chance to play.
There were five of us, bands. It was a broad mix, metal, punk, blues, big band.
The club is easy to find and not too far from home about an hours. Nice little place, small but not too small. We went on next to last. It was a very comfortable show and went well. A few mistakes but nothing that showed badly. . We must have did good, we were the only band asked to do an encore. Things were a bit loose but not overly. It was a fun night. I did an edited recording of the concert to 20 min if interested HERE
 
So those are the big things happening in my small music world outside of SuiZen Buddhism.
One thing for sure is I am doing far more musically here in Japan than I would in the States. A good path for a retirement. It is different playing when you are young to be rich and famous from when you are older and just play , because you can. I would love to have a steady, even somewhat steady “Gig” as a musician again. I can work toward that hope, goal, but it is Journey not the goal.

Progress in small steps

Even small steps forward, is still progress, it is not the size of the step, it is the direction.

I am starting to feel like I am making some progress on several endeavors. Since I just came in from Kyudo practice I will start with that.

There was a Rei Kai today. It took me a while to figure out it is Rei Kai, not Dae Kai, not that it really matters, it is just a label. The event is important, not what I called it.
The ReiKai today was small as most of inner dojo events are. It was cold, I continue to be grateful we are inside dojo. I would have really suffered had it been outside. Still during break many were standing around our one little space heater, or had on their outside coats.

The day went smooth, it was a relaxed day. My shooting was not great, I was able to hit one out of the first two sets , then as I made adjustments I hit two out of the last set of four. After that time one of my Sempai Sensei said something to me, as him another Sensei who often helps me had been watching my shooting and discussing it. The second Sensei, the senior seem very reluctant to say anything, but the other spoke up. My balance when shooting was off. I guess I was leaning into the shot too much. My pushing toward the mato was turning into a lean toward the mato. I made a note of it.

The main shooting was over now was the time everyone shot again but instead of 4 arrow, it was one, per round. If you made the shot you continued, if not bye bye. I applied a correction to what I had been told. Instead of just pushing, I lifted my head and stretched my spine upward, like when doing Tai Chi, or sitting Zazen. Also then push toward the mato and away from it with the opposite hand. So as I had been told before or read, that it was more of a circular expansion not just vertical. To the Heaven and earth, and to the sides. So I guess not really round, but all around. I also did the tightening of the triceps as Yamashita Sensei had told me, upon release. The other thing was to place myself “in between the bow and the string. Aonther thing I had heard or read about, but I finally figured out the feeling. When I do it the ya goes straight, like an arrow :-). It is sort of leaning into the bow to place yourself in the middle. Technically I am not between the bow and the string, but it feels that way. I am not supporting the pull with my arms, and chest, but “body”, Bam , a hit, I thought I was done for a while. But I was called up again, Bam! hit, and a another time. I was in the finals. I missed my last rotation shot, maybe everyone else did as well. However, wow I was doing good. I am finally starting to understand, things are starting to click. Usually when I think like that, I find I am wrong, but so far this time it has held up. I still have a way to go, but I am making progress and have found the spot to aim from on my Yumi. Now more and more practice and I should be ready for the Shinsa this summer. Sato Sensei asked me was I going to the shinsa in March I said no, more practice yet. But I believe with continued practice Summer will be it. If not there is Autumn, and Winter. Also next year, if God be wiling and the creek don’t rise. Maybe these days it should be If God be willing and hte bombs don’t fall! Either way I am feeling good about this being the year of Yondan. The “Dog” is with me!

The day before I had my monthly meeting with the Shakuhachi group. A cold and rainy day, once agin we met at Oota- Sensei shop. This from what I understand maybe becoming out regular meeting spot. It is a bit rustic, but comfortable and no hassle to be there and no conflicts with other groups wanting to use the space.

We went through the usual drills. I was able to play along on a couple of piece that I had not done before. For me that was a personal victory. Then everyone played the individual pieces they are doing. Finally it was my turn, I was not really excited about, but I did Choshi. The Yamamoto, version. I received some corrections and tips on playing. Then asked to do it again so I could practice. It was better, still needing work but better. I could hear a Sempai grunt an approval of parts I did correct. Afterwards he says, I do the last phrase well, I did need to work on the small adjustments. Another Sempai showed me how to correct one part. Later I was told I have good potential my tone is good. That was good to hear…yatta!

I also decided on the Shakuhachi I wanted Oota-Sensei to make for me. I heard a couple of different sizes being played and my ear was most pleased with the 2.0. It was told to me later by another Senpai about having six hole instead of 5. I had not thought of that, but upon hearing it said and explained why, it is a good idea for my experimental flute. It will take some time before it all comes together. Oota-Sensei will have me select the Bamboo I want as the next step, now that I have chosen the size.

I was given the application for joining the Myoanji temple. This was helpful. I can fill out the form before meetinG with Matsutani-San next month. The Sempai who gave me the application, told me later that he would be my sponsor if needed. I thanked him told him that Matsutani-San a friend of my Sensei said he Would sponsor me. The Sempai said, ohhhh, yes, you should go with him as a sponsor he is very well known…Yatta, Another plus for me!

After the practice meeting, as is the custom we went out for food and drinks. I have never done that in the States, hanging out with the guys at a bar drinking and chatting. Even with my Kung fu family. We did that at the Dojo with Shifu after our closed door classes. My brother and I when we went out it was to eat Chinese food. It was not that often like a ritual as it is with the Japanese. It is a normal custom in Japan, at lest with companies. It was fun, even with my limited Japanese we had a good time. One Sempai is heading to Hawaii soon and wanted to practice some English. They made sure I had what I could eat and we had a good time talking misc stuff including, Shakuhachi technique playing compared to feeling playing,

So process is being made. The new band is feeling positive, Kyudo is feeling positive, Shakuhachi world is also feeling positive. I need to crack down on my Japanese study next. still…The year of the Dog is off to a good start…Yosh!

 

弓道 – Hatsukai 2018

 

Hatsukai – 2018

 
This is my 4th Hatsukai, I believe, if my count is correct. This year there was a new years gift exchange, of sorts. Everyone joining the Hasukai this year was suppose to bring in a gift of more than 1,000 yen ( $10) to give away. Nice idea, it was just our club, so it was sort of intimint.
 
It was a fairly cold day, but not too bad. If I say it, it true. There is a sailing expression, no bad weather, just bad clothes. So I was dressed for Kyudo, and keeping that thought of being ready I had on several layers of understuff, then silks, for outside travel I had my big long coat. Socks inside my tabbies, and long johns legs were long enough to cover my feet to the toes. Yeah! I was ready, freddy.
 
I arrived a little before the 1:00 pm start, and did my New Years geetings and got in a couple of shots before things started. Now after a few years of these things I can follow along easy enough even though sometimes, well most times I do not know what is going on. I just roll with it. This times was not different. I thought I knew what was happening at times, like the start, but I am corrected and adjust my sails.
 
After everyone is signed in and ready there is the opening ceramony and annocement stuff. Then a “Sharei” of some sort, then round of shinsa shooting then the taikai rounds. I fall into my regular routine, I watch I shoot, I take photos, repeat.
 
My first two shots missed, maybe I hit one, of the set of four, that followed. Maybe two, lost track. When I was warming up, Watase Sensei, I could feel watching me. As I was leaving the floor , he intercepts me and give me a correction on not drawing enough right out of DaiSai, I was cutting to short. Arigatou I saw and bow. I ask is my elbow height arch any better? He shook his head, said something I did not know but “knew” it meant no! He laughed, as did I as I bowed and turned off the floor.
 
Later after my Tai Kai round, Yamashita Sensei intercepts me and says. Good job! I say, eh?! He was talking about a correction, adjustment he had given me last time I shot with him. It is a blessing to have these Sensei caring for my progress, even though not in a formal class. That is real concern for the student and honoring the practice from the heart.
 
Ok, so moving on, things started warping up we are down to final shooting. Small targets, a single arrow per turn. I got in three shots, all misses. I did not care, I was in a it’s a practice mode. For some reason even though small than a regular mato, I expect the good shooter to make quick meals of this, but no, it was taking some time even for the good shooters. I was up again soon. Ahh, yes, it was taking shorter time between rounds becaus eit was only our dojo there not several for the area. Anyway…I digress. I am up again, I shot and bam, I get a hit. Lucky, it was a causal event, and subconcously I knew that, so when I hit I put up both hands, yatta! Thoses that saw smiled.
I could not help but smile as left the floor… my posse’ was happy for me! So was I. My day was made. I had a “feeling” it was the day I was going to hit one of those mato. Yatta!
Although it was not really skill, more of a calulated luck shot. Even still though, it is a sign I am improving, it when mostly where I planned. I should be ready by the summer to make my bid to breath the air of Yon-dan altitude 🙂
 
So yeah, it was good start to a new year of Kyudo.
 
 
*Next up the new band “Sieki”
 
 

弓道 – 108 ya – 2018 yr – Scent of the Dog


108 ya – 2018

 
As I have been doing for the last several years, I shoot 108 arrows for the new year, same as the Buddhist ringing a bell/gong 108 times…cerimony. A friend started it I have taken on the training. 
I was set this as in the past to do my shots here at the Bamboo Mantis Hidden Makiwara Kyudojo. 
Out of nowhere a sensei, who I am friends with and have played music with, he asks if I wanted to come to his dojo to join a New Year shooting. It took me a while to get all the details correct and figured out. 
Sempai’s (the sensei) dojo is the one kyudojo that I tried to join when first in this area. They said no, after telling me yes, and me showing up, changing and ready to shoot. Then they dropped the no bomb. I was told that the club owner said no new members. I am thinking hmmm yeah right…but let it go. Still I was bummed out!
 
I was told I could go to Kishiwada, which I did and I am pleased that that it worked. Trusting the force to provide for my best. As it turns out several of the Senseis and a Sempai that help me at Kishiwada are from this other dojo. I have heard on other times that the story is indeed true and not a “me” issue. Ok, onward, so this Kyudojo is connected to a Shinto Temple. So this turns out to be a local New Year event. The dojo opens, we shoot, there is a ceremony of some sort, then the windows of the dojo are opened so that the locals that come to tthe shrine to pray for the new year can also watch us do Kyudo. I was told this was to be an all night thing basiclly. Someone give me a ride home. There were a couple of other people from Kishiwada going as well. Cool I thought. After I got all the infor sorted out, I was all in.
 
Now there were some things I still did not know, but i would just go with it and see. I knew the basics, I show up, I can shoot, dress really warm, there will be something hot served, there is a cerimony, do not worry about the train home. I was set.
 
I planned for a full day, a long full day. I figured to do my 108 at home since I had no idea how much I could shoot or how long it would take taking turns, getting the ya, etc. Where they also doing some version of the 108? Hmmm. Ok, i figured, whatever this is a training day a, purifying day. First off some Zazen, and then breakfast. Next out for some physical Chan, and some tea. I am ready to start now. I figured to cruise through this, I the full day to do this, so I would pace myself. I did a four sets of 5 before taking a tea break. This then back at it. This time going just a point past halfway. Break time.
 
I took a lunch, some tea, FB’d a bit. I notice now, my tenouchi hand is hurting. I had been griping wrong, to tight maybe, it is right where, just below a callous from work is located. It is like a little pebble in your shoe…
So yeah, now it is hurting, there is a new little bluster, and torn open on my palm. Warrior training spirit says ” there is no stopping until finished, deal with it”. After some thinking, I had a pair of gloves I was going to use for komuso playing when it was cold. The finger tips are cut off. I dug these out and tried on the left glove. Perfect, white cotton, l with just enough cushion. I tried it out it worked so. i went back to practice.
 
I shoot for about 5 min before it started to rain. Wow, I am thinking, the force is testing my resolve. It was not raining hard. I continued, since my yumi is fiberglass and bamboo. Weather is not and issue. Great I was able to have the blessing of two Yumi, bamboo and hybrid-glass. It rain little on and off through my next set of shots. During my next tea break, the weather app said the rain would be fully done about now.
 
Yes after my break the rain was no more. I continued, shoulder and chest starting to feel the strain now, still, I pushed. I tried to stay focused , a mindful practice, attention to each detail of each shot, not just shooting for the numbers. Kishi sensei says don’t just play your shakuhachi to make sounds , notes, make the note have the best quality. As I neared the end of my 108, I had another break pre-planned , bit decided to press on and just do it. I stopped when I had completed 106 shots. I figured no matter how many people there was at the dojo tonight, or the order of things, I would have time to have at least two or three sets of shoots. I would wear the glove, I would try to anyway. It was plain white, this was not a class, so it should be ok, I thought. I will removed it if I have too. Another reason to do most of my shooting at the makiwara, no one tells me how to dress.
 
So for the most part I was finished my 108. I got things organized for the evening. A shower, some food, a bit of sake, then practiced some “Suizen”. It was a great day so far. In the back of mind I was thinking about what to expect tonight at the dojo. Really the main concern was how cold would it be? I was dressed for some what I thought would be fairly serious, at least for me, I am a cold weather wimp. I had on maybe for or five layers of tops, silk, and cold weather poly things, plus leg’ns . My main concern would be for my head, with no hair. I had a silk kimono, and coat, we were going to be inside, so that part should be ok.
 
I arrived early to the shrine, way early. I walked around, did few New Years prayers, took pictures…facebk’d, killed time.
 
Finally someone arrived. I did not know him, he asked if i was from Kishiwada. Shocked I thought everyone knew that. Maybe just checking. He made a small joke about me being early. I did know him so I continue to wait outside while he opened up the dojo. Short while later my dojomates showed up. I went in with them. Slowly others arrived, we all settled in as they lite the heaters, and setup the bean soup, made ready the yumi and ya, everything set to shoot.
 
Little by little they started, there was nothing official happening everyone just went up and shot. All was very relaxed, many sat by the heaters chatting and staying warm. Little by little things got more organized and more started shooting.
 
Near 11:30 we were instructed to go to the next building, to where the ceremony would take place. We all went into the main temple, the Shinto priest where all ready. We all had a seat on small folding stools, no kneeling. That was a relief, my knees could not have taken it. Ok, i wanted to take some photos but I thought that would be not cool. I resisted! There was a little bit of chanting, incense, bowing, usual stuff. However short and fairly simple. The priest blessed the group everyone bowed and it was done. Everyone went back to the Dojo. I got a few photos outside.
 
Once back in the dojo, the sweet bean soup was ready. Mochi was added a short wait and it was ready. Bowls were handed out. It was not to have something warm and sweet, perhaps a little too sweet, but it was still welcome and good! I had a second, but small helping.
 
Now people really started shooting in earnest , it was almost 12:00 now. I heard someone start the happy New year phase when it was midnight. Everyone said it to the group and continued to shoot. It was not a 108 shooting, just a New Year’s shoot. 
 
I made my final shots earlier and surprising hit, my last (108) and the first shot (109) of the year . Really surprised because i could not tell where my first arrow of the night went. Where I was off. My ya are black, it was dark, dim light by the mato, and my growing old man eyes issue. So I was focused on my position and alignment more than “seeing”. Those were the only hits for the night, I think I shot 5 times, three I needed for my count. My last shot for the night came just after midnight. I had thought earlier that I would change my string for the New Year. I had taken it off to adjust the tension, and it looked shabby in a couple of spots. Then I got lazy let it slide. I forgot about doing it
Just after finishing my home shots, when took some time to do SuiZen after the 106 shots. Anyway, yeah, the string broke, i had a spare, but since it was so late i just stopped. I was under the impression that something opened at 1:30 am. But what it was , the Dojo was closing at 1:30 am. So my string bit the dust at 12:40. I was done for the night. All worked out. Good I did most of my shooting at home for my counting goal. I couple of people asked about my glove, did I hurt myself, or what. i explained, they said ohh. My Sensei asked, when I told him I was screwing up my tenouchi in my practice. He laughed as did I .
 
My sempai came to me as everyone was packing, and said he would take me home. Argatou. It was a good experience. I am pretty sure the first Gaijing involved and attending.
 
So onward into the New Year. I am feeling this is the year I will go to the next level of understanding. I can feel some improvement when I shoot. I still have much to do, but I am finally feeling some progress. Year of The Dog will be successful for my Kyudo endeavors. 
 

弓道 As the arrow flies

 

As the arrow flys…

 
I had heard people say that Kyudo is difficult. When you see learn the first 8 steps, it is doubtful you really understand the complexity of doing those first steps and sending and arrow into the target. When you first become aware of the shakuhachi and there is only 5 holes to learn, basicity 2 octaves and breathing right, one could think 8 things. Simple. You could also even compare the sound of the note, as the target and the breath the arrow…

it is doubtful you really understand the complexity of doing those first steps and sending and arrow into the target”
 
My quest to consistently get that note continues. Of course I am that stubborn kind of guy.
 
It is understood in the music world the extreme difficulty of play a shakuhachi. Some take a month(s) just to make a sound. I hear a lot of comparisons between Kyudo and Shakuhachi in my Shakuhachi sensei’s talks. He is not doing the comparisons, it is happening on my head from listening to him talk. The other day for example he was talking about technique and spirit. One can have good spirit and be a technically poor player, and the other way around. To be a “player”, master, you need both, you must have both. Once you have technique, then your spirit must excel forward, beyond the technique. Something like that. Anyway I am hearing the Kyhon ( kyudo bible) in my head. 
 
Since starting the Shakuhachi I have at times wondered which is more difficult…
 
Both can be considered a spiritual journey, beyond the flight of the air-row…
I have decided it is Kyudo that is more difficult! One can throw off an off note, as style, expression. However the flight of the arrow only tells the truth. The smallest detail un-balanced, off tone, makes a big difference the flight of the arrow. Hits… truth or not.
 
I have been picking away at my Kyudo, like a scab on a sore. With sort of the same results and sensations on the path to a bloody tender mess, when done too early. Yeah, anyway still training. I was starting feel like I was making some progress. I still had a way to go, but even I felt like I was making progress. A couple of the Sensei had even given their approval on some of my shots and I was hitting more often in pairs. Still a way to go but there was hope, in my mind. A seed…
 
Next month is a Shinsa at my dojo. All other Shinsas this year have been and will continue again after this up-coming one, at a dojo I dislike because entry and exit are done opposite. As this Shinsa is on my home turf, I started getting the lets give it a shot thoughts, hope, dreams…
 
Recently I go to the time spot when the main Sensei teaches. I had been given some changes, pointers over the last couple of days/week, even by him. So I felt reasonable good going to practice. I also needed him to check over my paperwork for the Shinsa. 
The paperwork was mostly ok, a small change was needed. He also said something about a section, that I did not understand. I said I will have my wife call him. So I practiced…
 
As expected I got corrections, a good thing always. Even more so by someone in the upper levels. Parts of the adjustments were on the same issue, the tenouchi. One of my demons. Ok, I made mental notes and practiced. I could not put in long hours that day, as I was expected elsewhere. I decided pretty much by the end of the day, the up coming shinsa was not a good idea for me now. Still more training was needed. I figured I would see how I did in the up coming Tai Kai, to make the final decision, dependant on how the arrow flew. 
 
I found out later that the section on the form, Watase Sensei was referring to was about workshops , seminars. Sensei had said I had not attended any since the states. I should have some time with them on the form. I did not even think I was suppose/needed to attend those if I was getting plenty of help in the Dojo, it was a personal choice option only. I am still not sure if I NEED/MUST attend. I will anyway at least one. I figured it would be too difficult following group instructions in Japanese. Well I will found out. In Oct that is when the next section is held.
 
Ok on to the TaiKai. It was a hot hot day. There was a typhoon on the way arriving the next day. It was humid! There were four other dojos in attendance.  
My job for this day was the photographer. I brought my serious camera along for the day. I love my long lens! I also had some great light in a spot for a while. Even though hot hot hot, I got some pretty good shots. My shooting the bow was not as good as shooting my camera…
 
Sensei was watching me like a hawk when I shot. I could feel his eyes! After the second round he comes over and tells me how way off I am on things. I had only one hit by then after 8 shots. After lunch I have one more round, I get two out of four. It was settled for me after the first round I was not ready yet for Shinsa.
 
After everything was cleaned up there was still some practice time available. I took advantage of it. Yamasta sensei was still there helping. He gave me some instruction as did my other Sensei. Then just he helped me after Watase Sensei left. Some of it was things I had heard before but part of it was new. I was told I was overdrawing A LOT!!! Ehhhhhh! This was a shock as I always hear I was not drawing big enough, so I thought. He explained more, where I should stop drawing, with my elbow not my hand, and just expand and drop shoulders and body into the Yumi. Once I understood what was being said, it made a difference in being able to relax in Kai. The Kaicho had always said I was too tight. I thought how can I draw full maximum and still stay relaxed!? Now I get it there is a point you draw to, which is not the full maxed out size of the Yumi. 
Part of the problem with my training is not being fully in control of my language skills. If I was fluent enough to understand the full details of these lessons I have been told, instead of just a small section, my progress would be a lot faster…I think so anyway. My slow progress is not so much a lack of technical skill coordination, but a lack of understanding how to use that skill, how it functions. 
Yamashita Sensei said, I think you will be ready for YonDan Shinsa soon. I said hmmm, next year I think. He said nothing else really, more of a sound, Ummm ne, kind of thing.
 
Anyway, onward, keiko keiko keiko…Winter is coming.